Media freedom mechanism in the Arab region requires consultation and independence

The undersigned Arab group members of IFEX have studied the document issued by the consultative meeting held in November 2015 in Rabat, Morocco, on the regional initiative for the formation of a special mechanism to support media freedom in the Arab region. The initiative, launched in October 2014, concerns what it described as "the key issues associated with the establishment of the mechanism, structure and mandate" of a special mechanism. It is led by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ in collaboration with the Federation of Arab Journalists (FAJ).


This statement aims to clarify the position of the undersigned organizations on this regional initiative. While all efforts to promote freedom of opinion and expression in the Arab region, including media freedom, are welcomed, the signatory organizations have the following observations:


1. We are surprised by the lack of involvement of important and highly active human rights organizations, which have a history of achievements and accumulated experience operating in the Arab region,in these consultations which apparently began in 2014;


2. We firmly believe that this mechanism should not be part of the Arab League system due to the fact that, as stated in the recommendations of the Rabat meeting, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states well-known for their grave offenses against human rights are in control of the Arab League at the moment. Assigning this mechanism within the Arab League would mean that it will be controlled and directed by Arab governments to serve their policies, often characterized by repression and persecution. It is worth mentioning here that in spite of all serious violations that happen every day in the Arab region, the Arab League, the Arab Commission for Human Rights, the Arab Network of National Institutions for Human Rights, and the Arab Parliamentary Union have all failed miserably and have not been able to issue a statement condemning even one incident of those violations;


3. We strongly stress that the establishment of this regional mechanism in all respects and its implementation of actual work on the ground be independent of Arab governments.This means direct cooperation with other international mechanisms such as the United Nations system and the European Union to ensure the independence of the mechanism and its effectiveness on the ground;


4. We call for a meeting in late May 2016 to work on the preparation of a new comprehensive document on this important regional mechanism, with the participation of all active human rights organizations in the Arab region and representatives of human rights mechanisms of the United Nations and the EuropeanUnion.The documentwill include a precise definition and clear mandatefor the mechanism, its duration and implementation plan, including the place and funding, as well as measures to ensure its independence and the best ways for it to operate effectively and successfully in the Arab region.


Signatories of the Arab group at IFEX:

- Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain

- Arabic Network for Human Rights Information

- Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression

- Gulf Center for Human Rights

- I’lam Association

- MADA Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms

- Maharat Foundation

- MARCH Association

- Social Media Exchange (SMEX)

- Vigilance Association for Democracy and Civil State